Senate Republican News Brief

“This legislation will give all stakeholders time to work together to improve the process and provide fair and effective options for students and parents.”

Senate Education Committee Chair Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) on legislation passed by the Senate to delay the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years.


Senate Reconvenes at 1 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes today at 1 p.m. Bills on the calendar that may run this week include:

Senate Bill 299– providing municipalities the option to waive an earned income tax for volunteer firefighters and EMS. Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne)

Senate Bill 352 – reforming and modernizing the Race Horse Industry Reform Act. Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver)

Senate Bill 356 – amending the Local Tax Enabling Act to help with the consolidated collection of local income taxes. Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon)

Senate Bill 370 – extending the sunset from 5 years to 10 years for merged fire companies to continue to collect grant money. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 398 – redesigning the driver’s license and identification card applications to include questions on organ donor designation. Sen. Don White (R-Indiana)

Senate Bill 663 – removing the parental rights of someone who has been convicted of a rape that produced a child. Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny)

Senate Bill 751 – prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)

Senate Bill 775 – amending Title 11 consolidation of the Third Class City Code. Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair)

Senate Bill 683 – modernizing and strengthening the use of DNA technology to fight violent crime. Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware)

Senate Bill 862 – aligning criminal history background clearance requirements for school employees with the Child Protective Services Law. Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster)

Committee Action

The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission will meet to vote on the auditing firm to handle the Statement of Financial Affairs for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. (Tues., 9 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), will meet to consider Senate Bill 296 and House Bill 272, and hold a public hearing to discuss the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. (Tues., 10 a.m., N. Office Bldg. Room 1)

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), will hold a public hearing on continuity of mental health care from prison to community. (Tues., 10 a.m., Room 8E-B)

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair), will meet to consider the nomination of Timothy Reese for Treasurer, and to consider bills. (Wed., 10 a.m., Room 461) *Not streamed live

Senate Committee Schedule

Hearings are streamed live at unless otherwise indicated.


Basic Education Funding Commission Presents Final Report

The Basic Education Funding Commission issued its final report Thursday recommending that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.

The Commission – which was co-chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Representative Mike Vereb – undertook a comprehensive study of multiple factors before arriving at a consensus on a new formula that will benefit school districts, parents and children.

The 15-member group, created through Act 51 of 2014, held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from a wide range of experts and advocates in the education field, as well as parents, from urban, suburban and rural school districts throughout the state. For more on the final report, please see In the Spotlight and Fast Facts, below.

Senate Votes to Delay Keystone Exams Graduation Requirement

The Senate unanimously approved legislation June 15 that would delay the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement for two years.

Senate Bill 880, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chair Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), would delay the end-of-course exams in algebra, biology and literature as a graduation requirement until 2019.

Senator Smucker: “While I strongly believe in holding schools accountable and ensuring that our high school graduates are career- and college-ready, these exams have created some unintended consequences that should be taken into consideration. The intent of the exams is admirable, but the implementation has presented concerns that may be best addressed by pushing the pause button and working through them.”

Senate Approves 911 Reauthorization Measure

The Senate on Tuesday approved House Bill 911, legislation that will reauthorize the Emergency 9-1-1 System in Pennsylvania.

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), held two public hearings on the bill and adopted a comprehensive amendment based on input provided by a number of individuals and organizations.

The current fee on wireless devices is set to expire on June 30, 2015, unless the law is reauthorized.  House Bill 911 would set the fee at $1.65 a month per device.  For the first time, 9-1-1 will be using national standards for staffing and equipment, thus when counties submit their annual 9-1-1 plan and funds are disbursed to them they will not fund things that are out of line.  There are also incentives for consolidation and shared services which will result in cost savings. The bill returns to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote.

Direct Wine Shipping Bill Approved by Committee

The Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks), on Wednesday approved House Bill 189, providing for the direct shipment of wine to consumers.

Currently out-of-state retailers of wine may obtain a direct shipper’s permit through the PLCB.  However, the permit limits the amount of wine to be shipped and excludes any wines currently available for sale through the State Stores.  In addition, the wine cannot be shipped directly to a resident’s home; it must be picked up at a State Store by the purchaser.

The bill was amended to remove the 18 percent Johnstown Flood tax, place limitations on the number of bottles that can be direct shipped, strengthen the penalties for reselling wine, and establish the PA Wine Marketing and Research program board, among other changes.


In the Spotlight

The lack of a permanent state funding formula for education has provided an unbalanced distribution of state funding to school districts and does not match the needs to educate students in some districts, according to a statement from the Basic Education Funding Commission.

The commission determined that allocation of basic education funding needs to allow for accountability, transparency and predictability. The main objective of the new funding formula is to fairly distribute state resources according to various student and school district factors.

The new formula takes into account several student-based factors, including: Student count, which is the average of the most recent three years of Average Daily Membership (ADM), poverty, English language learners and charter school enrollment. The formula assigned weights to each category to help determine the degree to which each factor drives up the cost of educating a student.

Commission Statement: “The goal of the commission was to create a funding formula that would be a significant improvement over the current system for how Pennsylvania distributes state dollars toward education. We believe we have laid out a plan that will succeed in doing that.”

Fast Facts

Recommended Basic Education Funding Formula Factors

  • Student count
  • Poverty
  • Number of English language learners
  • Charter school enrollment
  • Sparsity Size Adjustment for rural school districts
  • Median Household Income
  • A school district’s ability to generate local tax-related revenue